tv [untitled] February 22, 2012 3:00pm-3:30pm PST
>> good evening, and welcome to tonight's meeting of the commonwealth club of california, the place where you are in the know. >> you just said this is where we came in. >> is this a trick? you can find us on the internet. i am from kcbs radio. your moderator. this is part of the good lit series. now it is my pleasure to introduce our special guest today, d and alan zweibel. they need no introduction. dave barry won the pulitzer prize for his insightful and funny commons -- columns in the
miami herald, which he wrote for 21 years. is the best-selling author of more than 30 bucks, none of which has won the pulitzer prize. you may remember the tv series "and dave swirled," which was about his life. fortunately for us, his wife is running a lot longer than the tv show. he has written a show with alan zweibel. please welcome dave barry and alan zweibel. [applause] >> thank you. >> thank you for the fairly lengthy introduction. those are going to go first. i am dave. first of all, we're thrilled to be here at the commonwealth club.
i want to tell you a little bit about myself. i live in miami. i moved there in 1986 from the united states. [laughter] one of the things i always feel like i should do is to defend my city because it had a bad reputation, a bad image. the zogby does this organization -- and does this poll were they asked people about different cities. many respondents thought miami was a dangerous and violent place. that hurts. when we see that, we want to attract those people down and kill them. [laughter] it is a wonderful city, it really is. it is a question of learning to adapt to the local culture. for example, you would never say out loud in miami, i do not know, i think you have to admit that castro has done some good for cuba. [laughter] anyway, what ever you have heard, disregard.
it is a great town. we have a new attitude out there. the tourism motto is to come back to miami, we were not shooting at you. [laughter] i want to tell you quickly about my career. i have been a humor writer most of my life. i started out as a regular reporter. i worked at a little leaguer in pennsylvania called the daily local news. very small town paper. not the best edited paper. we once ran a headline that said women would be raped. [laughter] but that is where i got my start in journalism. i was not great at reporting. i was an english major and went into journalism because i wanted to write, but i learned that writing is not the key skill in journalism. talking to people is the key skill. sometimes you have to talk to people who are intimidating or
hostile. good reporters are able to do that indeed there train of thought and not get flustered. i was not good at that. after i became a columnist but was still dealing with news events, in 1982 i was in new hampshire writing columns about the new hampshire presidential primary. i spent a day following the then first lady barbara bush around. not as a stalker, but as a member of the press corps. it was a big press corps, lots of people. the motorcade of us going and around and all these dignitaries in various events. at the end of the day, mrs. bush had a press conference at a hotel ballroom. the place was packed. i was taking notes for my humor column. when i thought it was all over, the photographer brought the press corps that had been with mrs. bush up on the stage. maybe two dozen of us. they put me right next to
barbara rush, first lady of the united states, for this picture. this is a situation where i know in my mind to say nothing. i knew that in my mind. [laughter] your brain does not always tell the rest of your body what the plan is. there was kind of a quiet moment with these high-powered journalists and this room full of people. i planned to say nothing, but for some reason my mouth came open, and i said to barbara bush, first lady of the united states, who i had never met. i said, a shot at the same supermarket as your son jebb. [laughter] i swear to you. i did shop at the same supermarket but this was before he became governor of florida. but i do not think the first lady was dying to know that. i do not think she was wondering
if this fellow shops it is in supermarket -- she goes, well, who gives a shit? [laughter] not with her mouth but with her eyes. with her mouth, she said we just celebrated his birthday. i analyzed the statement. they have nothing to do with each other. she was being gracious. she has probably seen this happen in million tons. the person is reduced to a blithering idiot because she is a barbara bush. she was pretending we were having a conversation about her son. we really were not, but she was bailing me out. very thoughtful of her. i knew she was doing that. i said, thank you, mrs. bush. that is what i was thinking with my mind. but in my mouth was thinking, whoa, we're really getting it off here.
i heard myself say, following up on the fascinating fact that i shot at the same supermarket as her son, i said, he is very tall. i swear peter it is true, but i am sure the first lady was already aware of that fact. now she's looking around for the guy with the tranquilizer and dart gun. she said, he did not just grow this year. thank god. they took the picture, and it was over. i had to get the ridicule from my federal journalist on the way back to the hotel, marveling at my interviewing techniques. wondering what i would ask that lee harvey of what it i had the opportunity. they talk about spontaneous human combustion were people turn into flames and the scientists cannot explain why. i can explain why. sometimes it is your best option but don't so that really is how i became a humor writer. i was not good as a journalist.
i must liro did on my own. then i ran it -- i mostly w rote it on my own. i was in and and wrote some young adult fiction books with one of my band mates. i enjoyed the experience but i never would have thought about writing an adult kind of novel with anybody else until i met alan. i want to tell you about alan. i do not know if you realize how major he was then in the comedy world. the remember the great 19709- 1980 "saturday night live"? a lot of that was this man here. how many of you have seen "700 sundays close " with billy crystal? he co-wrote to that. how many of you have heard the song "mr. budging goals -- mr.
bojanles"? he had nothing to do with that at all. [laughter] any way, ladies and gentlemen, my co-writer -- i ask one thing of you. when we get to the questions, please, no questions or comments about the freakishly huge size of his head. ok, that is all we ask. actually, you should not look at it right now. a huge head. it is like easter island. >> it is for radio. >> doug and i are leaning to our left because of the gravitational force. but, as i say, he is sensitive about it. [laughter] let's forget right now about
alan zweibel's head. ladies and gentlemen, alan zweibel. [applause] >> you know, it is really amazing to me that i actually know dave barry and actually wrote a book with him. i remember as a 5 or 6-year-old kid, my grandfather used to read a lot of dave's stories to me. [laughter] and here i am now. how did i become a humor writer? it is ironic, the whole thing is because, originally, it was not my idea to become a comedy writer. this was a decision that was made for me about 35 years ago by every law school in the united states. [laughter] went to college. my great point average was really good, but you had to take the law boards, which was graded
from 200-800. if you could write your name, you got 200. if your einstein, you got 800. if you work alan zweibel, you got 390. that classified me as mineral. [laughter] i remember going home at easter, and i told my long island jewish parents that i got 390 on at the louisiana board. and about a week later, this was just as they uncovered the mirrors -- [laughter] my father gave me $1,000, which i then it took in gave to a man named stanley kaplan. stanley kaplan has these schools all over the country where they teach you to take standardized tests. so i gave him the $1,000. for six months, i studied it to
retake the louisiana board -- the law board. six months later, i reject the test. my score catapulted up to a 401. [laughter] i figured, at that rate, i would be about 90 before i got into an english-speaking law school. so i started writing jokes for all comedians who played in the catskill section of new york. the hotels paid me $7 a joke. that was the going rate at the time the vso 21. they are 45. it was like writing for my parents' friends. but i tried my best. they would say to me, like, a sperm banks. sperm banks are in it the news. write me sperm bank jokes. 21, this is what was the foremost on my mind. they have this new thing now called sperm banks, which is just like an ordinary bank
except here after making a deposit, you lose interest. [laughter] hey, $7, what do you want? [laughter] then i became the sperm bank guy. they would go, more sperm bank jokes. that i looked into the future. i said, i see a problem with spurring banks. they're starting to freeze sperm. that will be a problem because it is herded up telling kids and they are adopted. how do you tell them they are defrosted? [laughter] $7, ok? i am living home with my parents. this is after college. i got a job in a delicatessen to supplement this great living i was making. my price went to $10 and $12. these were nondescript comedians always driving -- writing for. i was going nowhere fast.
years later, it was easier to write for guys that had characters, like rodney dangerfield. he had that thing, i do not get no respect. it was easy to say, i never got any respect. even as an infant, my mother would not breast feed me. she said she liked me as a friend. [laughter] see, that was easy. these -- the catskills were dying. i said, ok, i am going to live with my parents forever. i am go to work in this delicatessen forever. i took these jobs that these old guys would not apply for me, and i made it into a stand-up routine for myself. there were two big clubs in new york. i will go on stage, deliver the jokes, and maybe a manager or agent, the kind of people who used to hang out there, would like my material and give me a job. this is where richard pryor
started and lily tomlin and others. the first date -- the first week of was working there, i met a guy who is also starting up. his name was billy crystal. he lived about 3 tons over from where my parents live. he had a little blue volkswagen, used to pick me up every night. drive into the city. we would get on stage, do our jobs. he would drive me home. we would critique each other's jokes and our acts. i am about four months into this nightmare, this experiment of mine. one night at about 1:00 a.m., having the hardest time in the world making these four drunks from des moines laugh. i get off the state and -- i get off the stage and go to the board videos awaiting for billy. a man sits next to me and starts staring at me. staring at me. i finally go, what, what do you want? he goes, you know, you are the worst the media i have ever seen in my life. i said, thank you, i really need
to hear this right now. thank you very much. he said, but your material is good. do you write it? i said, yes. he said, can i see more of it? i said, you bet. i even asked his name. ends up this is lorne michael, and he is going to the clubs in new york looking for writers for this new show called "saturday night live" that was going to premiere in the fall. i go home to long island and a type of what i believe for a 1100 of my best jokes. two days later, i have to go back to the city for my meeting with lorne. i was so nervous. what should i wear? well, hip new show. i will dress hip. i put on my father's marroon
polyester leisure suit. i looked like a big blood clot. i went to the city. he was staying at the plaza mattel. my meeting was like at 2:00 p.m. i do not want to be late. i was really nervous. i got there like at 7:00 a.m. in the morning. i see a pay phone, 1975, no cell phone. i went to the pay phone and call billy crystal. he had been talking to lorne about the possibility of being on this new show. i said, do you have any hints you can give me so i can have a leg up in this meeting? he said, well, he used to write for woody allen. he used to produce monty python specials. oh, and he hates mimes. lorne hates mimes. the bulls up a chair and give him this poem with 1100 jokes in
it. he opens it. he reads the first joke. egos, u -- he goes, uh-huh, good. then he closes the book. i wrote 1100 jobs over two days, and he reads one joke. i wrote a jokes and the post office was about to issue a stamp commemorating prostitution in the united states. 10 cents, but if you want to lick it, it is a quarter. [laughter] he said, good. good. he said, tell me, how much money do you need to live on? i said, well, i am making $2.75 an hour at the deli. match it. [laughter]
he said, well, tell me a little bit more about yourself. acted it to mean before he committed this kind of cash, he wanted to see what he was buying. i said, with the allen is my idol. i love monty python. but if there is one mime on the show, i am out of here, and he gave me a job. [laughter] that was my great. ultimately, hear i am, having written a novel with my childhood hero dave barry. [applause] >> dave barry and alan zweibel, they're not here all week, folks. we're going to take questions from the audience. we have written questions. this book "lunatics," how did you decide to write this book together? >> we were both -- we met in
washington, d.c., when a steve martin -- in 2005 or to adults and six, he won the mark twain award -- it thousand five or 2006. there was a big show. i was one of the presenters. alan was a waiter. no. [laughter] no, alan was a writer. >> i helped larry david wright his speech. >> when we were far away from larry david, he says he wrote his speech. anyway, we like each other. we became friends and saw each other off and on over the next few years at conferences and stuff like that. alan kept saying -- >> we should do something
together. >> i did not know what he meant. [laughter] he was very vague. he is kind of in the film-tv world, and people always say they want to do something. i said, ok, let's do something together. but i do not think we would. then he had this idea. >> his daughter played soccer. she was 11 years old. i had three children, all of whom spate -- played sports, little league, whatever. but he was 1,600 miles away from me. i was in new jersey. he was in florida. i can give you his home number later if you wish. [laughter] i said, listen, why don't we make it work for us? we came up with a situation where there is a championship game, girls 12 and under. the revf calls a 10-year-old girl of side when she gets what would be the winning goal in the
championship game. her father goes ballistic. let's have a feud between the referee and the father. i will be the referee. you'll be the voice of the father. and we will alternate chapters. that is exactly what we did. my guy is the referee, fill up. i wrote the first chapter. i sent it to dave, having no idea what he was going to send back to me. his guy is a lot like him. very sweet, wonderful man. really, alan is a gentle soul with a huge head. [laughter] tell them what york guy does for a living. >> he owned a pet store. called the wine shop. he needed money to open it a few years ago. he asked the landlords whose
last name was wine. they said we will give you money if you use our name in the store. people would go to the start thinking they could get merlot, burgundy, or whatever. they were surprised to see the animals. >> my guy's name is jeffrey peckerman, and terrible human being. homophobic, coward. nothing like me. a lot of work in this character. he is the father of the girl that this character calls offsides on. they have a conversation. this guy think it is nothing. they do not like each other. but they do not expect to see each other ever again. the next day, guy is driving home from his job. he is a forensic plummer. [laughter] which is a real job.
if a crime is committed involving, let's say, a toilet -- [laughter] you would call a forensic plumber who would testify. the victim's with his head in the bowl to not have reached the lever, so i cannot have been a suicide. [laughter] google id. i am telling you, folks. anyway, he is coming home from his job as a forensic plumber, and his wife tells him he needs to pick up some wine for her women's book club. so he sees the wine shop. so they come back together. that sets out this chain of events. they hate each other. but i keep getting pushed together randomly. within a matter of days, without intending to, they have hijacked
a clothing-optional cruise ship. [laughter] >> it gets a little weird starting their. >> that is very early in the plot. from there, this is the story of two guys who do not want to be together, all they want to do is go home, but things keep happening to them. they become international terrorists, and the end up going all over the world. >> they bring democracy to cuba. [laughter] they delivered two million bananas to the starving folks in somalia. they go from being perceived as terrorists into being great liberators. >> but they never know. they have no idea that any of this is happening all the way through. that is sort of how we got going. a lot of times when people write books, novels, and i do not want to get to inside baseball, but they have what is called a plot.
[laughter] we did not really have that. [laughter] it was improvisational novel writing or neither one of his new with the other was going to send. there really was you could never change it. you had to go with it. our motive was almost entirely revenge. oh, ok, i see what you give me here, mr. funny man. you get this. >> that was like having a deranged pen pal. ted kosinski was writing to me, ok. i would see this chapter. i would have no knowledge whatsoever how he would have reacted to what i had just sent him a few days before. our only goal was to react and to advance the "plot." i would read it, and i would go, oh, man, what am i going to do
with this? about a day later i would go, all right, all right, i will show him. i would write something. generally, it got to a point in my chapter -- the chapter was only about three or four pages long. we wanted to keep going back and forth. i would get to a point where i do not know how to get them out of this situation. let him to figure it out. like i said, revenge. >> the weird part for me is i am used to you finish it before you show it to anybody. this is mr. collaborative medium person. he writes like the first sentence, which is, what a wonderful day, and he sent it to billy crystal. he says to me, billy loves the first sentence. >> i was just taking the temperature of how this was going. he liked the first sentence. ok, i will write another
sentence. >> we rode three or four chapters. we do not know if it was anything. the people i am sending it to really love it. loves what? we have no book yet. that is the way he thinks. >> but it worked out. we already had a movie deal with steve carrell attached to play my character. it sort of worked. >> apparently. >> you're listening to the commonwealth club. [laughter] you are listening to the commonwealth club of california radio program. we have dave barry and alan zweibel peter i am along for the ride. you answered about 10 questions that people have submitted. about the movie, i picture steve carrell as one of the
characters. reading it, i was alternating for that character. any idea who willpeckerman? who would you like to? >> brad pitt. >> i knew that was your answer. [laughter] >> thank god it is radio. >> alan is the film guy. >> i just hope this does better than the last time i had a book that was going to be a movie. i am not sure i want to be connected with it an alan zweibel film. a number of years ago, our son adam was about seven years old. he was at that age where at the dinner table, he would look across at me and my wife, and